Finding the right natural deodorant (“natural” here meaning an odor masker that doesn’t contain aluminum) can involve plenty of trial and error with gritty pastes and sticks, some that keep you fresher than others. And when you stumble upon something that works, it’s a very personal achievement — your favorite natural deodorant might not work for someone with more sensitive skin, or a heavier sweater. Unsurprisingly, people have a lot of opinions about what works and what doesn’t, so we polled a range of sweaters on what they consider the absolute best, and organized them according to how they’re made up (baking soda or baking-soda-free for those with sensitivities, and including gels, pastes, and crystals.)
Best baking-soda deodorants
While baking soda is not for everyone (it’s an irritant that can cause skin rashes), it’s also a staple in natural deodorants because of how it counteracts bacteria and keeps underarms dry. Often credited for launching the natural deodorant craze Stateside, Soapwalla’s baking-soda cream comes in a paste, and as writer Alice Gregory puts it, “has the consistency of gritty frosting, the vague scent of lavender, and the efficacy of substances usually formulated for the military.” Erica Cerulo, co-founder of Of a Kind, is equally obsessed, and credits the clay in it for soaking up sweat: “When I started using it, I felt transformed. I had email exchanges with people about it. It sells like hotcakes for us.”
Another name that comes up often when you talk about natural deodorants is Schmidt’s: It comes in a variety of different scents and seems to hold up well under even the sweatiest circumstances, according to Peter Piekarczyk, co-founder of Orchard: “I’ve been using Schmidt’s for about a year and a half now. This past weekend, I did a 40-mile, 2,000-foot vertical bike ride in San Francisco, and Schmidt’s held up very well. I love the consistency and I’ve never had any issues with the product not performing.”
Schmidt’s formula is also available in stick form, so you don’t have to get your fingers messy. Comedian and actress Ana Gasteyer tells us that she’s worn it for years and considers it a “unicorn product” in a sea of offending deodorants. “It’s just a nonaluminum-based, earthy, artsy-fartsy deodorant that fucking works. It used to be this annoyingly crunchy paste, but now they make it in stick form — the flavors are lovely and down-to-earth. I’ve worn it for 14 or 15 hours under hot lights, so I’m a believer.”
This one uses clay and baking soda to keep sweat and odor at bay, but still has a smooth texture if you’re not a fan of grit. Jacqueline Jones, natural beauty writer at the Beauty Proof, says it’s been a “game changer” in comparison to other natural deodorants she’s tried that were messy, stain-producing, and otherwise ineffective: “No matter what the weather’s like or how crazy my day gets, the Hoppin’ Fresh Deodorant gets the job done without screaming ‘dirty hippie.’”
Here’s one deodorant with a baking soda, beeswax, and coconut-oil base that’s a favorite of CAP Beauty co-founder Cindy DiPrima: “It works like a charm, feels luxurious, and the scent profile is simply gorgeous. With notes of vetiver, sandalwood, cedarwood, and rose, it’s warming, sultry, heart-opening, and most importantly, subtle. It does contain baking soda and essential oils and so it may not work for the most sensitive types. If you are, Agent Nateur also offers a formula for sensitive skin.”
In the drugstore range, you can also pick up a cheap Arm & Hammer deodorant stick. “I discovered Arm & Hammer Essentials years ago when I borrowed it at my long-haired-yet-nice-smelling boyfriend’s place and it’s been my No. 1 ever since,” says Christine Pardue, asssistant editor at Palgrave Macmillan. “It’s a stick (I find creams and even sprays to be prohibitively fussy), it’s cheap, and it smells really good, in a vaguely masculine sort of way. My office regularly runs 80 degrees or warmer, and this stuff more than gets me through the day.”
And if you’re willing to dig into something that’s more under-the-radar, we hear that Oyin’s handmade Funk Butter is one of the best. Writer Robert Moor uses it daily and tells us that it’s the closest thing he’s found to a true deodorant. “Instead of plugging your sweat ducts, like antiperspirant, it kills the bacteria in your sweat, neutralizing the reek. Countless mornings I’ve woken up expecting my armpits to smell like vile sleep sweat — you know the kind — only to discover that I smell no worse than a box of Bisquick.”
Best charcoal deodorants
Some people believe that charcoal in their deodorant adds another purifying element. Annie Jackson, the co-founder and COO of Credo, recommends this creamy charcoal one from Routine, which has notes of mandarin, geranium, and rosemary in it. “The charcoal and magnesium in it are super-effective and a little goes a long way, so one jar will set you up for a while. I love the Superstar scent.”
Another one, which got its start on Shark Tank, is this Piperwai deodorant that Ángel Díaz, a technology associate at Gunderson Dettmer, likes. It mixes charcoal, clay, and baking soda which has “has held up on a Citi Bike commute from midtown to Brooklyn), and it’s easy to find.”
Best deodorants for sensitive skin
Beyond paste-y jars of deodorant, there’s also been a recent wave of fancy twist-up deodorants that are gel-like in texture and rely on oils, rather than baking soda, as their base. One of these is the Malin + Goetz deodorant, which uses citronellyl and eucalyptus to mask odor. Carolyn Griffin, a freelance social-media strategy consultant, says she’s tried all of the culty, expensive ones out there. “I really dislike the smell of the Baxter of California deodorant and Penhaligon’s. Aesop’s ‘deodorant’ is really more like a room spray — it just masks whatever you have going on,” she said, and finally settled on this one. “I haven’t found one that I like more — good scent, feel, and it holds up decently throughout the day.”
When she’s not using the Malin + Goetz, this lightly scented Task Essential option is Griffin’s backup. “This is actually great, doesn’t stain our clothes, and holds up well, too,” she says. It’s technically marketed to men, “but I think the scents are neutral enough.”
And we’d be remiss not to mention this roll-on deodorant from Real Purity which sparked somewhat of a craze amongst the Strategist team when editor Alexis Swerdloff reported that she had stopped sweating (along with a handful of her friends) after trying it. One editor after another bought it and reported the same, so we had to investigate. Actress Aubrey Plaza is also a fan: “With other natural deos, I always felt like my skin was dry, but Judy Greer recommended this to me. She told me it’s the only one that works, and it’s true. I don’t have to reapply. It’s all-natural. It’s light and smells good.”
We’ve also been hearing great things about Megababe’s Instagram-friendly deodorant from our friends at the Cut. It’s a blend of oils, plus soothing aloe and green tea. A couple of staffers tried it recently and were wooed: Morgan Sykes, the Snapchat editorial assistant, says, “The smell is incredible, it goes on clear, and the packaging is adorable. I’ve been using it for two weeks now (the time they say is necessary for your armpits’ microbiome to adjust), and I’m excited to say that I’m going to make the full-time switch.”
And here’s one of our favorites in the baking-soda-free category. This kawaii little tub of paste feels more creamy than grainy on your skin, like a cake batter, and tends to smell like a fresh dessert, too. It uses magnesium and arrowroot powder to keep you smelling fresh for hours and we appreciate how the sweetness covers up general fustiness as the day goes on.
Best crystal deodorant
And if you really want to go au naturel, the closest you can get is a crystal deodorant made from potassium salt, which changes the pH level of your skin to prevent the growth of bacteria. Garrison Taylor, an artist and musician, has been using it for years and says it’s “perfect for mitigating the stink emanating from your pits without covering it up with more smells or blocking your sweat glands. I would recommend reapplying before anything super-sweaty or humid, but it works for my hairy pits!”
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